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I have a 2.5 year old daughter. She sleeps great once she's asleep. We do the nightly routine and put her to bed. She gets into bed after story time and cuddles her stuffed animals and closes her eyes.

After my wife and I leave the room she will play in bed - sometimes it's kicking the wall, sometimes talking to her stuffed animals, sometimes singing, etc... She may do this for 5 minutes to an hour. Even when we're sure she's tired she will stay up and play.

My wife and I have taken to standing in her room and saying "Shhh" or "Lay still." when she's been going for a while without falling asleep. Usually after 15-30 minutes of this she will fall asleep.

We got the idea of standing in there from people who's kids kept getting out of bed - recommendations were to put them back in bed and sit there quietly without getting upset or emotional.

Are we doing the right thing by staying in there? I'm hesitant to try any kind of bribery like "Go to sleep and you get X in the morning" or "If you don't fall asleep you won't get Y tomorrow" since I'm not sure she'll remember the cause or reason for them the next day.

She doesn't show any signs of being afraid or reluctance to get in bed. She's never climbs out and we don't play in bed. We read stories on a rug near the bed and after hugs and kisses she climbs into bed. Any thoughts or suggestions?

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    I like both GdD and Valkyrie's answers. In contrast my son screams, yells, and cries for 5 minutes to an hour before falling asleep EVERY night, and for us that is normal. If we go into his room it just delays the crying and keeps him up later. – Dave Nelson Feb 5 '13 at 15:15
  • Our 7yr old does this, even when she's really really tired. Worse when she's really tired in fact. We find we have two choices: 1. Try and deal with it and fail 2. Just leave her to it. – John Hunt Feb 19 '13 at 15:06
  • Consider yourself lucky... my toddler won't even stay in bed unless.. I myself am in bed with her.. not my wife, not my sons.. me.. its been this way for over a year.. I love her dearly but.. I WANT MY NIGHTS BACK!! :( lol – Tony Oct 15 '15 at 18:31
  • Reading a short story is a great wind-down activity in preparation for sleep, and it also gets children interested in reading and books. Get her in bed, then read a simple short story, say goodnight and head out. – Paul Johnson Oct 18 '15 at 11:03
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It sounds like she's simply not tired, if she was tired she'd be out like a light. Or she might be too wound up by some sort of activity just before bed. It's also possible that she just likes talking and playing a bit before sleep.

Standing in the room is the least productive thing you can do, it's not going to make her go to sleep, in fact it probably would keep her awake more than anything else. Plus, it's an invasion of her space. If she's kicking the wall go in, tell her to stop, and get out. Better yet, do nothing, as she gets attention if she kicks the wall.

try:

  • having more wind down time between activities and bed-time
  • putting her to bed a bit later - she may not be tired when she goes to bed
  • a glass of warm milk, it's a natural mild sedative
  • If I waited to confirm this worked I'd probably forget to select this answer :) I think we're going to try doing the bath earlier in the evening since bathtime seems to get her fired up and then having some more wind-down activities between dinner & bed. The milk won't hurt either! – Dave Feb 8 '13 at 13:24
  • @Dave, it's unusual that a bath gets a kid fired up, usually the opposite as it is supposed to relax them, but all kids are different. – GdD Feb 8 '13 at 14:40
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Playing in bed is a great way for children to establish their autonomy. They need sleep, but it's also commonly said that children 18-36 months really need to establish their own autonomy and exert their free will. Playing in bed instead of falling asleep right away is a good way to do this with minimal headache for you, and without negative consequences for your LO. Staying in the room is a bad idea because not only does it impede this exercise of free will--it starts a habit that you're almost certainly not going to want to continue and that will just make everyone unhappy in the end.

My son has had regressive sleep periods now and then and has screamed when left alone, where he would formerly just peacefully go right to sleep. Something that helped then was a modified "Ferber" method. If he was throwing tantrums in spite of being comfortable and well-fed, etc., I'd wait 7-10 minutes with him still crying alone and then I would go in, make sure he was lying down, and repeat over and over again, "it's time to go to sleep," and then leave again. And after repeating a few times eventually he got the message and went down. If she's playing and not throwing tantrums, though, that's just exercising free will and she can learn the consequences (being more tired) herself. I found this forum because my son just spent the last 45 minutes babbling and playing and chattering to himself instead of going to sleep, but all is quiet now, so I suppose it isn't something to get worked up over.

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My son (22 months) does the same thing. He actually kicks us out of his bedroom when he's ready ("Night night! Night night, Mommy!") and then plays for up to an hour. He always falls asleep in his bed when he's ready to go to sleep, though, and sleeps the night through. Not tired in the morning, and gets a good nap at daycare.

IOW, I wouldn't worry about it. So long as her room is kid-safe so she can play in there and not hurt herself, and she can't roam the house at night after everyone goes to bed, let her play. It might be her own personal way of settling down for a good night's sleep.

Now, if you want her in bed because you don't want her roaming the house, maybe a baby gate at her doorway? For our son, we actually have a wireless IP camera in his room to watch him so we usually just lock his door (he's already shown a remarkable ability to scale baby gates) until he goes to sleep. After he's asleep, we unlock it and leave it closed; he assumes it's still locked and doesn't try to leave.

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I'd say if your toddler is not upset or calling for you then let them get on with it and go enjoy your evening! El often plays for a while in her room (particularly at naptime) if she isn't tired enough to sleep. You could try making bedtime 30mins later and see if that helps but standing in the room interacting with a child who otherwise would happily stay alone and eventually drop off sounds like a bad idea to me. You may end up teaching her she needs you in the room to drop off and you'll end up with a new issue. Mine sings "twinkle twinkle little star" to herself at bedtime after I have gone!

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We tried a bunch of other things to get our son to bed and sleep. After much trial and error, this is what worked for us and might work for you too:

Some people simply need time alone to unwind at the end of the day. Many children do. My son used to "sneak" a few little cars or pieces of Lego into his bed and then play quietly in bed. As long as he was quiet and stayed in bed it wasn't a problem. I actually moved his bedtime earlier in order to give him this unwind time yet make sure he got enough sleep. On occasion I would pop my head in to make sure he was in bed, but didn't interact with him or linger.

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